MY FATHER DIE (2016)
Written and Directed by Sean Brosnan
After discovering his teenage son Chester sleeping with his underage mistress, Ivan brutally beats the young man to death whilst injuring his youngest son Asher. Two decades later, Asher is visited by the police who inform him that his father is being released from prison. Losing his older brother and also losing his own hearing thanks to his so-called parent, Asher has only one thing on his mind – to end his father’s life for destroying the lives of everyone around him.
Debut feature film from Sean Brosnan, son of former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan, MY FATHER DIE is a dramatic thriller set in the southern states of America. Following the story of Asher Rollins, a young man who’s had to endure a terrible upbringing, we follow him as he looks to set right the wrongs of his life: his father, Ivan. Flashback scenes, neatly portrayed in black and white, demonstrate how the young Asher looked up to his older brother Chester who was pretty much his role model and stand-in father growing up, with their own father a nasty piece of work who it would seem saw his sons as a threat to his status of alpha male rather than as his own offspring to nurture. After killing Chester and leaving young Asher deaf, Ivan is locked away and everyone affected by his father’s actions get on with their life as best they can. Asher is taught how to communicate by sign language by Chester’s love Nana and her mother whilst his own mother just lies on the couch getting fatter and fatter. As an adult, Asher spends his days looking after his mother, taking care of the house and skinning crocs until the news of his father’s release once again destroys his world. This time though, it’s payback.
Ivan is a nasty fucker. We first meet him as he’s beating his son to death, jealous with rage that his own son has been shagging young Nana, a girl he’s claimed as his own mistress albeit unwillingly on her side. In this backwoods, trailer trash neighbourhood, sleaze is all about and it seems Ivan is up to his eyeballs in it. Leaving his sons to fend for themselves, he prefers to spend his time with his biker gang buddies when not forcing himself on the young Nana. Fast-forward a couple of decades to his release from prison and Ivan appears to be even worse than before. Built like a brick shithouse and a demented determination to match, he’s one guy you don’t want to mess with as the local bar quickly finds out…
It would take a mean bit of casting to get the part of Ivan right but the filmmakers have scored with an absolute gem in the former boxer Gary Stretch. Having last seen Stretch as the lead in Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, I wouldn’t have necessarily thought to have cast him as Ivan but he fits so well into the role which he embodies both physically and emotionally, bringing fear to the door of the viewer in every scene he’s in. Between this and his fabulous turn as another villainous character in Dead Man’s Shoes opposite Paddy Considine, I really hope this opens the doors to more opportunities for Stretch to showcase his abilities.
With Ivan back in the free world, Asher’s only goal in life is to take away that of his father’s. Wearing Chester’s old wolf pelt hat, he sets about tracking down his pa. Though the usually kind-natured Asher never speaks on his quest for revenge, prefering to live life as a mute after being ridiculed for his slurred speech after the loss of his hearing, we do get treated to a monologue divulging Asher’s thoughts and reflections, perfectly captured by the voice of his younger self. I thought this was a brilliant touch to use his voice as a 12 year old boy, the age he was when he lost his hearing, as that is how he remembers his own voice – not as the gruff, deeper one he acquires as an adult which he refuses to use. Despite his lack of verbal communication, the emotion is written all over adult Asher’s face thanks to a passionate performance by Joe Anderson. When needing to communicate with the outside world, a notepad suffices to get the message across.
Though driven by a pretty straightforward plot, MY FATHER DIE is a wonderful if tragic story to watch played out. Aesthetically, it’s a beauty to behold with the soft focused shots, the colours and voiceover monologue giving real style to the contrasting gritty, grubby society the characters find themselves in – a place where a mother feels that the only way to make cash is to strip for the webcam punters. Brutal yet beautiful, these two walk hand-in-hand as the story unfolds, serving up a delicious slice of action which will please viewers of the horror/thriller genre. Whilst towards the end it becomes a little unrealistic in terms of mortality, the performances are pretty much on point and it delivers as a solid piece of filmmaking to sink your teeth into.
A tremendous debut, which oozes a wealth of experience in every aspect, sets Sean Brosnan up as a director to watch out for.